Investigate Your Future: Are You Destined for a Crime-Solving Career?
You’ve always been drawn to a good mystery, especially following real detectives as they solve true crimes that actually happened. You listen to true crime podcasts like Serial nearly every day, and you’ve binged-watched your fair share of true crime documentaries on Netflix.
Your affinity for digging into the evidence and becoming an armchair detective has had you pondering another mystery lately: Could you be cut out for a crime-solving career?
Your sleuthing skills might be breadcrumbs pointing the way to a possible new career path. But it takes more than CSI reruns to be an ideal candidate for the job. So how do you know whether you’d be a good fit?
We dug into the research and spoke with an expert investigator to find out what it takes to solve crimes in real life. Read on to find out if a crime-solving career could be in your future.
7 telltale traits of a super sleuth
An investigative crime-solving career sounds like a dream, but you don’t want to rush into a new career path if it’s not right for you. It’s one thing to follow true crime cases from the comfort of your living room. It’s another to spend every day piecing together real evidence to lock up criminals.
Law enforcement officer RJ Beam brings his 17 years of experience as a patrol officer, evidence technician and investigator to shed some light on the characteristics of a top-notch investigator. If you can relate to these personality traits, you may be better equipped than you thought for a crime-solving career.
1. Detail oriented
You are always aware of your surroundings and notice when things are off. Your extensive DVD collection is alphabetized and it doesn’t take long for you to notice when they’ve been mixed up. This level of perception and attention to detail can be put to good use in a career solving crimes.
“We tend to catch people because they missed a detail,” Beam explains. He adds that keeping close track of a suspect’s story can help you catch them in a lie, or noticing dust on a shelf can show you where to dust for fingerprints.
Criminals will go to great lengths to conceal their wrongdoing. It’s up to the sharp eyes of the investigators to notice the small details that lead to new evidence and suspects.
You’re a methodical person who knows the importance of following a formula. You always get your oil changed as soon as you reach the suggested mileage and carefully follow the setup instructions whenever you purchase a new gadget. These systems were developed for a reason, so you intend to follow them.
This precision will serve you well in a crime-solving career. Collecting evidence isn’t as simple as it looks on TV. If an investigator doesn’t follow procedures exactly, they could contaminate the evidence or make it dismissible in court.
“An investigator needs to be diligent in being as close to perfect as possible all the time,” Beam says. “The second an investigator takes a shortcut, they start down a path to lose the case in court.”
Some people always expect instant results and can’t stand the thought of waiting, but not you. You know that conquering the next level of your favorite video game takes time and persistence. If you try jumping the gun, you could quickly find yourself back at square one.
While your favorite police thrillers usually wrap up in 60 minutes or less, real-life investigators need much more patience than their Hollywood counterparts. Investigators should be prepared to spend plenty of time questioning suspects and witnesses, watching for suspicious activity as they keep surveillance on a crime scene or suspect, and sitting through court proceedings as they wait their turn to testify.
4. Open minded
You’re not one to buy into stereotypes. You prefer experiencing something firsthand before adopting preconceived notions. Even though you feel you have good intuition, you’re always willing to hear and consider opposing views.
Assumptions are the enemy of a good investigator, according to Beam. “If you walk into a scene and assume something happened, your investigation will be biased by the assumption.”
Jumping to conclusions is never in an investigation’s best interest. A super sleuth should be able to put their preexisting judgments and assumptions by the wayside so they can focus on the facts and catch the perpetrator.
5. Communication master
You enjoy interacting with others and can connect with people of all backgrounds. Whether it’s in writing or in a conversation, you know how to articulate your ideas in order to be easily understood and well received.
Despite what you may see on TV or in mystery novels, great detectives aren’t flying solo as they work to crack a case. “We work as a team with other police, ambulance and fire crews, along with hospital staff in an investigation,” Beam explains.
Strong communication is the foundation of a successful investigative team, whether it’s writing up an accurate report or briefing your colleagues on the status of a case. You’ll also find yourself speaking with a variety of people to gather details on the crime, so strong interpersonal skills are a must.
6. Critical thinker
You’re great at assessing a situation and thinking on your feet to determine an appropriate solution. You often make connections that other people would never notice because you’re perceptive and think about things differently.
Real-life detectives have their work cut out for them if they want to connect the dots and uncover the events that took place on a crime scene. In addition to making sense of evidence, investigators also have to piece together the truth behind witness statements that may be conflicting. Your critical thinking skills are just what an investigation team needs to crack a difficult case.
7. Top-notch researcher
You insist on having all of the information before making any significant decisions. You analyze every last feature of a new vehicle before purchasing, and you take it upon yourself to learn more about the subjects of your documentaries.
Professional investigators never take anything at face value. They must be diligent researchers in order to corroborate leads they receive, dig up relevant information about suspects and peruse past police reports that may yield clues about the current investigation. If you’re considering a crime-solving career, you better not be afraid of a little research.
Uncover the truth about crime-solving careers
If you can relate to the qualities detailed above, you just might be a natural-born investigator. But how can you be sure you want to pursue the profession?
If you want to get an inside look at a day on the job as an investigator, Beam recommends you arrange a ride-along with your local police department. “Many departments allow civilians to ride with an officer for a few hours to see what police work is like,” he says.
Patrolling with an officer isn’t the same as being a detective working a case. But you will get a feel for the environment and get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what really goes into solving crimes. “One hour in a squad car, and someone will know if working at a police department is right for them or not,” Beam adds.
Investigate your future career
Now that you know what it takes to solve crimes, you might be ready to join the ranks of master investigators. Learn more about your crime-solving career options in our article, Private Investigator vs. Police Detective: Making the Case.